China's largest lake
Poyang Lake - China's largest freshwater lake - routinely fluctuates in size between the winter and summer seasons. Between December 8, 2019 (left) and July 14, 2020 (right), however, water levels increased from the lowest in 60 years to the highest on record, the result of heavy monsoonal rains that have caused over $26 billion in damage to China this summer. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

July 2020 was among the three warmest months of July since record keeping began in 1880, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, or NCEI, reported August 13. The month tied with July 2016 as the second-warmest on record, just 0.01 degrees Celsius behind the record set in July 2019 and just 0.01 degrees Celsius ahead of July 2017. NASA rated the month as the second-warmest July on record, and the Japan Meteorological Agency rated it as the fourth-warmest July on record.

Minor differences in rankings often occur between various research groups, the result of the different techniques they use to handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.

The seven months of January through July was 1.05 degrees Celsius (1.89°F) above the 20th-century average, NCEI said. This ranks as the second-warmest such period on record, only 0.04 degrees Celsius (0.07°F) behind the record set in 2016. According to NCEI’s annual temperature outlook, the year 2020 has more than a 99.9% chance to rank among the five warmest years on record. If so, calendar years 2014 through 2020 would be the seven warmest years on record.

The outlook finds that 2020 has a 36.9% chance of displacing 2016 as the warmest year on record. These odds are based on statistical relationships rather than unfolding weather and climate events. With La Niña conditions now developing (see below), it will become more difficult for 2020 to break the 2016 record.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for July 2020, which ties as the second warmest July for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Credit: NOAA/NCEI.

Global temperature records are more likely to be set during the peak of the solar cycle and during strong El Niño events, given the extra heat from the tropical Pacific Ocean up to the atmosphere. The remarkable warmth of 2020 has come in the absence of a strong El Niño event and during the minimum of one of the weakest 11-year solar cycles in the past century, underscoring the dominant role of human-caused global warming in heating our planet.

Global ocean temperatures during July 2020 were the third-warmest on record, and global land temperatures were also the third-warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in July 2020 for the lowest eight kilometers of the atmosphere were the third-warmest or second-warmest in the 42-year record, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville and Remote Sensing Systems, respectively.

Three billion-dollar weather disasters in July 2020; 22 for the year

Three billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth last month, according to the July 2020 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon:

– Torrential July downpours that inundated China’s Yangtze River Basin in July caused at least $15.7 billion in damage. The July flooding brings the total damage between June 1 and August 13 from China’s monsoon flooding to $26 billion, with 219 deaths. According to statistics from EM-DAT, the international disaster database, the $26 billion price tag of this year’s summer flooding in China would rank as the fourth most expensive non-U.S. weather disaster since accurate records began in 1990.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Catastrophic flooding in China is a recurrent problem, accounting for six of the world’s 15 costliest weather disasters outside the United States since 1990. (Image credit: EM-DAT and Aon)

– Heavy monsoon rains affected more than a dozen states in India throughout July. The hardest-hit states included West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujrat, and Nagaland. Much of the damage happened along the Brahmaputra and Ganga Rivers and their tributaries. At least 742 people died in rain-related incidents, and 333 others died as a result of lightning strikes across 10,000 villages. The total death toll of 1,075 makes the India monsoon floods Earth’s deadliest weather disaster so far in 2020. Total economic losses were expected to exceed $1 billion.

– Record-breaking rainfall triggered widespread flash flooding and landslides across southern Japan from July 3-10, killing at least 82 people and injuring 114. Flood damage was most severe on Kyushu Island. Total damage was estimated at $5 billion.

Through the end of July, Earth had 22 billion-dollar 2020 weather disasters, including 11 in the U.S., from severe storms. (The Australian wildfires span the boundary between 2019-2020 and may end up being classified as a 2019 disaster rather than a 2020 disaster).

Here is the 2020 list of billion-dollar weather disasters through July, listed by dollars of damage, according to Aon:

1. Flooding, China, Jun-Jul, $21.5 billion, 175 killed;
2. Cyclone Amphan, India and Bangladesh, May 15-22, $13 billion, 118 killed;
3. Flooding, Japan, Jul 3-10, $5 billion, 82 killed;
4. Severe weather, Midwest, Plains, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic U.S., Apr 10-14, $3.45 billion, 38 killed;
5. Severe weather, Midwest, Plains, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic U.S., Apr 6-9, $2.75 billion, zero killed;
6. Windstorm Ciara, Western & Central Europe, Feb 9-10, $2.3 billion, 14 killed;
7. Severe weather/Nashville tornado, Central and Eastern U.S., Mar 2-5, $2.4 billion, 25 killed;
8. Severe weather, Central and Eastern U.S., Mar 27-30, $2.45 billion, zero killed;
9. Wildfires and Heatwave, Australia, Nov-Jan, $2+ billion, 34 killed;
10. Severe weather, Australia, Jan 18-20, $1.56 billion, zero killed;
11. Severe weather, Central and Eastern U.S., Feb 3-8, $1. 5 billion, five killed;
12. Severe weather, Plains, Southeast, and Midwest U.S., May 16-21, $1.5 billion, one killed;
13. Severe weather, Rockies, Plains, and Midwest U.S., May 20-24, $1.3 billion, two killed;
14. Severe weather, Texas, May 27-28, $1.3 billion, zero killed;
15. Severe weather, Plains, Southeast, and Midwest U.S., May 4-5, $1.3 billion, zero killed;
16. Severe weather, Central and Eastern U.S., Jan 10-12, $1.28 billion, 12 killed;
17. Flooding, Iran, Feb 24–Apr 30, $1.2 billion, 23 killed;
18. Severe weather, Plains, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic U.S., Apr 21-24, $1.55 billion, seven killed;
19. Severe weather, Canada, Jun 13-14, $1.28 billion, zero killed; and
20. Drought, northern and western China, Jan-Jul, $1.0 billion, zero killed.
21. Flooding, India, Jun-Jul, $1.0 billion, 1075 killed
22. Severe weather, Australia, Feb 2-11, $1.0 billion, zero killed

Figure 3
Figure 3. Precipitation over a 30-day period ending August 6, 2020, totaled over 20 inches in portions of China’s Yangtze River Basin. Flooding during July caused $15.7 billion in flood damage to China – Earth’s most expensive July weather disaster. (Image credit: China National Climate Center)

A La Niña Watch continues

NOAA issued the year’s first La Niña Watch in July, and its August 13 monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, continued the La Niña Watch.

Over the past month, sea surface temperatures in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W) have dropped substantially. As of early August, they were hovering near to the 0.5 degrees Celsius below-average threshold for La Niña conditions.

Forecasters at NOAA and at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society now favor La Niña conditions over the coming months. The odds of La Niña forming during the autumn have risen to around 60%, with a 55% chance of the event lasting through the winter.

The Tweet below by Steve Bowen of Aon shows U.S. landfalling hurricane activity by phase of ENSO:

Bowen tweet

For the August-September-October peak of the hurricane season, the odds of El Niño were put at just 1%, and the odds of a La Niña event at 57% (up from a 30% estimate issued three months ago). Atlantic hurricane seasons tend to be much more active during La Niña conditions than during El Niño conditions, because weaker upper-level winds create less wind shear. During La Niña events, the U.S. East Coast from Georgia to Maine experiences much higher landfall frequency than in ENSO-neutral years, according to a 2007 paper.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Departure of sea surface temperatures in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) ending on August 12, 2020. Over the past month, sea surface temperatures dropped to around 0.5 degrees Celsius below average – the threshold of La Niña conditions. (Image credit:

Arctic sea ice: lowest July extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during July 2020 was the lowest in the 42-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The record melting was due to an unusually intense area of high pressure that developed over the North Pole at the end of June, bringing clear skies and record melting of sea ice. By July 5, Arctic sea ice extent was the lowest on record for the date, and record low daily extents continued through the end of July. However, sea ice loss slowed down during the last week of July, when a large low-pressure system moved into the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea. Ice extent during the first week of August was the second-lowest on record, behind 2019.

The sea ice is particularly low along Russia’s Siberian coast, where the Northern Sea Route was open to ice-free navigation during the last half of July.

In the Canadian Arctic, the remarkable warmth of July contributed to the collapse of Canada’s last intact ice shelf, the Milne Ice Shelf, located on Ellesmere Island in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, according to the Canadian Ice Service. The collapse reduced the area of the Milne Ice Shelf by 43%, and created an “ice island” about 30 square miles in size—bigger than Manhattan Island (23 square miles).

July heat was also pronounced over Greenland, where two significant melting events occurred in July.

Antarctic sea ice extent in July 2020 was the ninth-lowest on record.

Notable global heat and cold marks for July 2020
– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 53.5°C (128.3°F) at Mehran, Iran, 27 July;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -32.3°C (-26.1°F) at Summit, Greenland, July 31;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 38.3°C (100.9°F) at Conceicao do Araguaia, Brazil, July 14;
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -78.3°C (-108.9°F) at Vostok, Antarctica, July 30;
– Highest 2020 average temperature to date (Jan. 1-31 July) worldwide: 33.0°C (91.4°F) at Yelimane, Mali; and
– Highest 2020 average temperature to date (Jan. 1-31 July) in the Southern Hemisphere: 29.8°C (85.6°F) at Surabaya Airport, Indonesia.
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

Major weather stations’ new all-time heat or cold records in July 2020

Among global stations with a period of record of at least 40 years, 46 set (not just tied) a new all-time heat record in July, and one set an all-time cold record:
Bor (Russia) max. 36.4°C, July 3;
Agadir Airport (Morocco) max. 49.5°C, July 6;
Nikolsk (Russia) max. 37.4°C, July 8;
Uhta (Russia) max. 35.6°C, July 9;
Velikij Ustjug (Russia) max. 35.6°C, July 9;
Kotlas (Russia) max. 35.5°C, July 9;
Troicko Pecherskoe (Russia) max. 35.4°C, July 9;
Indiga (Russia) max. 31.6°C, July 9;
Pechora (Russia) max. 35.0°C, July 10;
Saim (Russia) max. 36.9°C, 15 July; beaten again with 37.1°C, July 17;
Sorocinsk (Russia) max. 40.8°C, July 15;
Ivdel (Russia) max. 35.9°C, July 15;
Biser (Russia) max. 35.2°C, July 16;
Verhnij Ufalej (Russia) max. 36.7°C, July 16;
Yekaterinburg (Russia) max. 39.1°C, July 16;
Nizhnyj Tagil (Russia) max. 37.6°C, July 16;
Birsk (Russia) max. 37.0°C, July 16;
Samary (Russia) max. 37.1°C, July 16;
Gari (Russia) max. 37.4°C, 16 July
Krasnoufimsk (Russia) max. 37.5°C, July 16;
Taimali Research Center (Taiwan) max. 40.5°C, July 16: (New national record high for Taiwan)
King Island (Australia) min. -1.2°C, July 16;
Chokurdah (Russia) max. 32.0°C, July 23;
Yonagunijima (Japan) max. 35.5°C, July 23;
Taipei (Taiwan) max. 39.7°C, July 24;
Leting (China) max. 38.8°C, July 24;
Karbala (Iraq) max. 52.4°C, July 24;
Nukhaib (Iraq) max. 50.1°C, July 24, beaten again with 50.4°C July 28;
Rafha (Saudi Arabia) max. 50.6°C, 24 July; beaten again with 51.1°C, July 30;
Dawu (Taiwan) max. 40.2°C, July 25;
Svalbard Airport (Svalbard Islands, Norway) max. 21.7°C, July 25;
Hornsund (Svalbard Islands, Norway) max. 16.2°C, July 25;
Eureka (Canada) max. 21.9°C, July 25;
Khoy (Iran) max. 42.8°C, July 26;
Al Jouf (Saudi Arabia) max. 47.6°C, July 26; beaten again with 47.7°C on July 28
Houche Al Oumara (Lebanon) max. 45.4°C, 27 July 27: (New national record high for Lebanon)
Baghdad (Iraq) max. 51.8°C, July 28;
Abadan (Iran) max. 52.5°C, July 20;
Amarah (Iraq) max. 53.0°C, July 30;
Kuwait Int. AP (Kuwait) max. 52.1°C, July 30;
San Sebastian (Spain) max. 43.0°C, July 30;
Pointe de Socoa (France) max. 41.9°C, July 30;
Gueugnon (France) max. 41.5°C, July 31;
Vichy (France) max. 41.3°C, July 31
Mornant (France) max. 40.3°C, July 31;
Boulogne (France) max. 37.9°C, July 31; and
Dammam (Saudi Arabia) max. 50.4°C, July 31.

Six all-time national/territorial heat record set or tied in 2020

As of July 13, 2020, six nations had set an all-time national heat record:
Colombia: 42.6°C (108.9°F) at Jerusalen, February 19 (tie);
Ghana: 44.0°C (111.2°F) at Navrongo, April 6;
Cuba: 39.2°C (102.6°F) at Palo Seco, April 10; broken again April 11 with 39.3°C (102.7°F) at Veguitas, and again on April 12 with 39.7°C (103.5°F) at Veguitas;
Mayotte, France department: 36.4°C (97.5°F) at Trevani, April 14;
Taiwan: 40.5°C (104.9°F) at Taimali Research Center, July 16;
Lebanon: 45.4°C (113.7) at Houche Al Oumara, July 27;
No all-time national cold records have been set thus far in 2020.
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera.)

69 additional monthly national/territorial 2020 heat records beaten or tied as of July 13

In addition to the six all-time national heat records, 69 other national monthly heat records have been set thus far in 2020, for a total of 75 national monthly heat records:
January (13): Norway, South Korea, Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Dominica, Mexico, Indonesia, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Cuba, British Indian Ocean Territory, Singapore;
February (12): Spain, Antarctica, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, Switzerland, Maldives, Gambia, Russia, Seychelles, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands;
March (7): Paraguay, Cabo Verde, Mozambique, Seychelles, United States, Thailand, Northern Mariana Islands;
April (13): Paraguay, Niger, St. Barthelemey, Honduras, Guernsey, Haiti, Congo Brazzaville, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, China, Saba, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands;
May (10): Niger, Greece, Saba, Cyprus, Solomon Islands, Turkey, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Chile, Uzbekistan;
June (6): Maldives, Thailand, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saba, Kenya, Ghana;
July (7): Mozambique, U.S. Virgin Islands, Laos, Myanmar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Northern Mariana Islands; and
August (1): Solomon Islands.

One monthly national cold record has been beaten or tied in 2020:

April: St. Eustatius.
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera)

Hemispherical and continental temperature records in 2020

Highest minimum temperature ever recorded the Northern Hemisphere in January: 29.1°C (84.4°F) at Bonriki, Kiribati, January 17;
Highest maximum temperature ever recorded in North America in January: 42.0°C (107.6°F) at Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, January 21;
Highest temperature ever recorded in continental Antarctica and highest February temperature ever recorded in Antarctica plus the surrounding islands: 18.4°C (65.1°F) at Base Esperanza, February 6;
Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February in Antarctica: 7.6°C (45.7°F) at Base Marambio, February 9;
Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in March in the Northern Hemisphere: 32.0°C (89.6°F) at Yelimane, Mali, February 23;
Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May the Southern Hemisphere: 31.1°C (88.0°F) at Argyle, Australia, April 2;
Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May in Europe: 30.1°C (86.2°F) at Emponas, Greece, May 17;
Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in May in North America: 35.0°C (95.0°F) at Death Valley, California (U.S.), May 28;
Highest temperature ever recorded in the polar regions: 38.0°C (100.4°F) at Verkhoyansk, Russia, June 20;
(Courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera. Note that Herrera is now on Twitter, and you can keep up with his remarkable statistics on his Extreme Temperatures Around The World Twitter handle.)

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Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...

Bob Henson

Bob Henson

Bob Henson is a meteorologist and journalist based in Boulder, Colorado. He has written on weather and climate for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Weather Underground, and many freelance...

25 replies on “July 2020: One of Earth’s three warmest July months on record”

  1. Two thoughts. I suspect that .01 degrees is within the statiscal error bars of the readings so July could have been the warmest on record.

    The La Nina condition is interesting. It has often been stated that global warming is enhanced by an El Nino condition. But we have been on the La Nina side of neutral at least since May so this thinking may need to change. I had a conversation with Kerry Emanuel, MIT IPCC,. a couple of years ago and asked whether the increase winds due to global warming might put us in a permnent La Nina condition. At the time, he thought that aoub 20% of the atmospheric group in IPCC thought this was a possiblitiy. I wonder if this percentage has increased?

  2. the big boys storms this year will be L storm throw W storm we will be up in arm pits with cat 2 and stronger storm so not too worry its coming AUG 20th and onwards

    1. good morning all actually nhc nailed isaias. it was the models runs that ended up wrong. hope everyone has a safe weekend

  3. Hate to be pedantic, but I’m gonna be anyway. Mayotte is not a dependency of France. Mayotte became a part of the French nation in 2011 and is a French department. As much a part of France as Hawaii is part of the US.

  4. Short video of the flooding by Three Gorges Dam and other flooded areas of China. The Three Gorges reservoir in central China’s Hubei Province is expecting more heavy rains and flooding this Friday. The preliminary forecast by the Changjiang Water Resources Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources, is for the inbound flow of water is to reach more than 50,000 cubic meters per second. They discharged the reservoir on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for the inflow.

  5. Thank You Dr. Masters; the Asian/Chinese monsoon has been brutal this year so far and I am a bit shocked at the amount of rain this season so far with the Indian Monsoon. Last year’s near-record breaking Indian Monsoon was chalked up in part to a very prolonged positive IOD which kept the monsoon rains going well into the Fall. With a neutral IOD this year, I was not expecting as severe of a monsoon for them. I am attributing that to related heat this year so far, as noted in this post, and increased water vapor from global warming including oceanic evaporation. The SST anomalies across the Northern Hemisphere have been very notable this year all the way into the Northern latitudes; made more remarkable by the fact, as you note, that we are exiting a solar minimum and not in an El Nino period.

  6. Fire season in full blaze, to be retired Isaias will cost billions and took out power to over six million people, then the derecho. 2020 hurricane season very likely will be one of the worst we’ve ever seen. Rain totals across the Southeast and parts of the Northeast are over two feet above yearly averages. Flood watches up across Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Minnesota today. This is the ramp up to peak, the calm before the storm. Thank you Docs so much for all you’ve done. Can’t wait to see this place up and running fully, with hopefully an even larger audience.

      1. @ DEN, there must be better sites for you, rather than wasting your time here. Your time could be much better spent with like-minded individuals, of which there are many. Just not here.

  7. Hope all’s well, Doc. Get some rest…MJO is coming and you might be busy in a week or two! I’m concerned will have some of those multiple-posts-per-day scenarios like we saw in recent years. Thanks for the climate update!

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